In the Middle-East, mediators from the so-called “quartet powers” have gathered in Jerusalem for talks which could see the outgoing British Premier Tony Blair named as their special envoy. He leaves Downing Street tomorrow, but despite numerous press reports saying he will be appointed, there has been no official confirmation.
The quartet comprises America, The EU, Russia and the UN. Washington is already pushing Israel to commit to talks on a future Palestinian state. Less than 24-hours after Israel’s Ehud Olmert and Fatah’s President Abbas extended the mutual hand of co-operation, Abbas has asked Israel if he can move a brigade of Palestinian forces from Jordan into the West Bank, to bolster his powerbase.
The Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian summit was a concerted effort to strengthen the position of President Abbas, who’s moderate Fatah party was severely weakened when the rival Islamist faction Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.
It led to an undertaking from Olmert to release 250 Fatah prisoners being held in Israeli jails. But, should he be appointed special envoy, there are questions over Tony Blair’s suitability in the Arab world, given his closeness to President Bush, and his role in Iraq.